Jest Hold Yer Horses!

These here is the honest and true stories of me and mine, me bein’ Liam Goodwell, jest fresh thirteen and the third proud son of the Denton County Goodwells.  

No doubt you heard o’us.  

Well, now, I’m here to share an enlightenment from my day.  Ain’t ever’ day I get light beamed down into my soul, pure golden sunshine sent down from the God’s Heaven, but this day, I shore found myself a’planted right smack dab in the middle o’one o’them lights.  All warm and comfortin’ be the colors of the sky and the pasture and ol’ Bessie the milk cow staring and a’chewin’ her cud all soft and fuzzy.  Like one o’them flannelgraphs from Sunday School lessons.

 Why, I’d lay certain I had me a vision, as pure and as real as I be puttin’ pen to Big Chief tablet.

 An’ now I got me some work to do.

Here’s how it went.  There I was out to the ol’ gray barn,  tuckin’ and tossin’ hay an’ oats into the horse stalls, one o’my after-school chores, and one I don’t half mind, no sir.  Horses, our horses partic’lar, we got us a language.  I understand them, and more than that there, they understand me.  I ain’t their buddy, no, the Lord God made us two-leggers dominant over the fours, but I ain’t no threat neither.  Mutual respec’, as it were.  Way I see it, they be put on this earth to be a help and a helpin’ hand, be it pullin’ the plow when the tractor needs o’l (which is too durned often), or when we need a ride down to town, or when we jest need us a kind listenin’ ear.  We got us an understandin’,  we do.  An’ judgin’ from their ex-pressions, I reckon they figger they’s in charge jest as much as I.  Way they see it, I was put on this earth to supply them food and shelter and kindness.  They gives us back frien’ship and strong backs.  Long as I toss ’em they feed, brush down their coats and wipe the foamy sweat from their backs after a long ride, why, they opt to cooperate.

An’ like I said, they like to think the same ’bout me.

Like I said, we got us an understandin’.  Either way, fine by me.

Well, however we see it, it’s an enjoyable chore, one I can fair do with my eyes squished shut, so off I went ’bout my business, not even notin’, not even hearin’ I was a hummin’, then a’singin’, then fair to shoutin’!  Tex and Buck, the two big bays, they give me a glassy eye, both of ’em, and they durned if they didn’t nod they heads to my melody, and well, Lord, I jest couldn’t stop!

I crooned me some o’ that Sinatra feller, I belted me some Billy Holiday, I sang melody and harmony both on some Grand Ol’ Opry favorites.  I’ll tell you what, THAT there, that ain’t easy!

Tell the truth, since my voice ceased and terminated it’s cracklin’ and cacklin’, not only could I reach them high notes way up past high C, why, I could dig down deep and get them low ones hoverin’ down by low C, as well.  I foun’ myself consumed with joy!

And the horses, well, they seemed to like it, too. Didn’t hear no complaints.

Well, there I was, trillin’ and findin’ my vi-brato, swayin’ and sashayin’ and raisin’ my hands, singin’ ever’ verse and ever’ chorus to durned near ever’ song, I ever did know!  No tellin’ HOW long I tripped and jiggled to my own melody-makin’.  Had me a pitchfork handle fer a micro-phone, had me livestock fer an audience.  

That then, though, then’s when, lo and behold, what to my surprise, jest after wailin’ a particular rousin’ solo rendition o’ Chattanooga ChooChoo, punctuatin’ the endin’ with a jiggity smack, I hear me, what was that?  A little girly gasp, follered by a delicate llittle polite handclappin’.  

I plumb froze, pitchfork microphone flung out in my outstretched arm, back to the barn door.

Who?  Was it Luce?  Well, nothin’ delicate ’bout her.  Livvie?  She was like to be at the library down to town.  Loreen? Nah, she’d be pickin’ flowers ‘r climbin’ up some tree savin’ a baby bird somewheres.

“Why Liam, that was just, just wonderful!”

Have mercy on my soul.  And please, Lord Jesus, send down yer Heavenly hosts and snatch me back up right now.

I lowered my microphone before turnin’, “Well, hey, Miss Meadow.”

It was Miss Meadow, from down to the school.

She strode right up to me, near eyeball to eyeball, “Why Liam Goodwell, I never once knew you could sing!”

I’ll admit to a little blushin’ an’ a mite unccomfortableness in my belly.

Lookin’ for an escape, I wiped my brow with the back o’my sleeve, prickly with hay.

“Well, It’s jest somethin’ I do out here to the barn.  Horses seem not to mind none,”  Humor did not, not one iota, ease my unease.  

But Miss Meadow, she’s a fine one and didn’t leave me to suffer too awful long.

“Well, Liam, you do have yourself a fine voice.  Like a gift to the world, you need to use it.  You near brought down heaven to my ears!”

Now Miss Meadow, she don’t never, not never ever, say somethin’ she don’t completely mean.  And that then, that then’s when the light come down from Heaven and plumb bathe me in it’s glitterin’ glory.  

God up in Heaven, He wants me to sing his praises!  I got me my callin’!  Right then and there in the faded gray barn with Miss Meadow and Tex and Buck in attendance, I heard down from the good Lord jest where he was a’leadin’ me!  

Hallelujah and praise be!  Felt that glow, felt that beam, knew my callin’d been laid upon me!  Me and Miss Meadow.  I was seein’ the future and it was pleasin’!

Miss Meadow, she fair to glowed, punctuatin’ the moment with, “And, Liam, we’ve got us a barn dance comin’ up this weekend, and the planning committee would surely appreciate you comin’ down and singin’ some of your swingin’ tunes!”

That there, well, that was a little bit of a comin’ back down to earth.  Shore wudn’t singin’ the Lord’s praises like some stylin’ traveling evangelist.

But law, if Miss Meadow believed in me, I was willin’ to begin with a barn dance.  Could be God’s plan jest as easy as Miss Meadow’s.

I give her a meek smile, and she give me a pat on the shoulder, then she swept herself through the double barn doors and marched off to see Mama , tossin’ somethin’ back  ’bout needin’ pies or somethin’ for the dance.
The Lord had spoke to me clear, that I was certain.

And on a’top o’that, I was smit.


“I See That Hand!”

These here are the true and verified and value-fied daily chronicles of one Liam Goodwell, third son this generation of the Denton County Goodwells, God Love Us Ever’one!



Now, comes a time when a feller, he’s got to make hisself known.  Comes a time when that feller, has to speak up against when he knows for heck certain somethin’s plum in error. To say nothin’, that there’d be livin’ a lie and I’d be cast down to the Fiery Lake o’Blazes with not a drop o’water to moisten my parched tongue.  Ol’ Devil’d torment me clean through to Eternity and back.

Least that there’s what Ol’ Brother Zebulon Magruder Bean down to the church preaches.  An’ I believe him.  Purtin’ near.  Either way,  I ain’t aimin’ on takin’ no chance, that’s fer ding dong sure.

I ain’t known fer speakin’ my mind, leastways not loud ‘nough to cause some commotion, and I’ll true stand tall ‘gainst them dishin’ on the low and downtrodden, but when Miss Meadow, down to the school, when she speaks, well, I take it as plumb Gospel.

Fer Miss Meadow, down to the school, she’s a mighty fine teacher, young and fresh, only a few years from the Dees Moines Ioway Teacher’s College up to Dees Moines, Ioway.

She ain’t never done nothin’ to steer none o’us kids wrong, not never.

And she sings like a night’gale, ‘course we don’t have none o’them here in Northern Missouri.  She, hallelujah and praise to Jesus, shore don’t sing like no Great Tailed Grackle, an’ we got us a’plenty o’them!  Birds and otherwise.

Well this day, this here day, I near to gnashed my teeth for the wrongness of Miss Meadows teachin’s.  Didn’t want to say nothin’.  Didn’t have to neither.  Durned tootin’ problably shouldn’t have.

It all started jest like a normal history period, Miss Meadow, all dewy and dreamy, sashayin’ to and fro ‘cross the front, tiltin’ like she was hearin’ voices from the past, teachin’ all us kids, kinny-garden on up to eighth grade, and them what was held back, regalin’ us with mind pictures of France over to Europe, days gone by.  Her voice fluttered up and danced ’round the ol’ peelin’ paint walls when she described the giant castles ol’ Louie the sumpteenth lived in, them grand all-week parties, folks dancing and spinnin’ fine, and them splendid men and kings and such dressed up in short pants and stockin’s over they knees.  Miss Meadow, she fluffed her hands like she was a strokin’ all them roses in them maze gardens.  She lifted her pert little nose like she was a’sniffin’ they perfume.

Law, Miss Meadow, she could spin a tale, makin’ them olden days come plumb alive, she could.

Law, I could watch and listen to her near all the day long.

But then, well, she come up short, she did, and while I longed to wish her right, prayin’ she’d find the correction in her head and sort the truth, specially for the young’ins, she plugged on ahead, makin’ the same mistake over’n over ag’in.  Them big boys, them what was held back and them what was too big for they britches, they come to snortin’ and guffawin’, and bein’ right disrespectful.

Miss Meadow, she shot them a look ‘r two, but off she’d go, pushin’ out that one little wrong fact.  And while it was a little one, by gum, them fellers wouldn’t let it go.  I could feel the red start a’climbin’ up my neck and overtakin’ my ears, burnin’ and churnin’.  Clinchin’ my fists, I shore wanted to lay into ’em, but proclivity and proximity precluded that behavior.

Still, I needed, felt called, to save her, save Miss Meadow from her folly.

I raised my hand.

On a roll ’bout hun’erds o’some purty mirrors surrounded by flowers carved out pure gold and carved birds and extry large rugs hung up the walls ‘stead o’laid neat on the floors, she continued in her revery.

She didn’t pay me no mind whatsoever.

And them fellers what sit ‘long the back wall o’our little one room school, they snorted all the more.

I coughed, near to had a fake fit, and finally, finally, her eyes, they focussed my way, an’ I meekly raised my hand once more.

“Liam?”  her voice was like cotton candy from the county fair, “Liam, do you have somethin’ to add?”

I quick took a deep breath, stood to my feet, knuckles of my fists pressed hard on the top o’my desk,  proppin’ me up.  Had to do this now, save Miss Meadow from the derision of them fellers and po-tentially from all them youngin’s what would tell they folks how Miss Meadow, she done got somethin’ wrong.  That there’s just not acceptable.

“Well, Miss Meadow,”  She waited patiently, fer she respected all us kids, Miss Meadow did.  “Miss Meadow, you been talking ’bout France n’all….”

“Why yes, Liam, it’s a magical place and one day I shore hope all you can see pictures.  I’ll get a book down to Kansas City and bring one in…”

I interrupted, butt right in.   I was taught better, but I needed to remedy this ‘fore I lost my fortitude.

“Miss Meadow, you been talkin’ ’bout that golden palace place, Ver—“

“Versailles?”  Lord.

Then the guffawin’, it growed right up to outright laughter, the mean shoutin’ donkey-brayin’ kind.  She looked ‘roun’ the room, perplexed but in charge.  She rapped her own knuckles on her own desk.

“I’ll have none of that!  Let Liam speak.”

Ain’t that nice….

But I digress.

“Well, Miss Meadow,”  I couldn’t meet her eyes, per-ferin’ to examine my boots as I was a’speakin’, “Well, Miss Meadow,  we know plumb all ’bout that there golden castle, ’twas named fer a town down south o’here some hun’erd mile then some.”

Glancin’ up, her eyes was on me, still perplexed.  That she harkened from over to Hannibal on the other side o’Missouri, may how that there was the reason.

“It’s jest, that, ma’am, the name o’ the place ain’t “Ver-SIGH.”  I could hear giggles cuttin’ under my words, “Ma’am,  we’re right proud they’s a fine palace o’gold named fer a right fine community jest down the road some, but, Miss Meadow,  it’s done always been “Ver-SALES.”  Long as we an’ our daddys and mamas and grands and great grands been ‘roun’ these parts.  An’ maybe them French kings, they got some confused, but I feel it’s right impord-ant you know how it is, bein’ we was first an’ all.”

There, I done it.  I corrected my very own teacher, and I felt like a worm, but then ag’in, some like one o’them knights she talked ’bout ‘while back, too.  I stood tall, lookin’ straight forward now. What was done, well, it was done.

Well, if tears didn’t well up in her soft brown eyes!   Look at her!   She was sorry and repentant as could be. A’cryin’ fer embarrassment, she was.    I’d saved her from mispronouncin’ a name we knowed since we was born, all us had kin livin’ there.  We KNEW!  And now, so’d she.  I stood a little taller then.  I felt some like I’d helped her restore her respect ‘mongst the youngin’s she was commissioned to educate.

Well, right then an’ there, if she didn’t wipe them tears what was now coursin’ down them rosebud pink cheeks and cover her mouth. She let forth with a couple o’little sobs, an’ wavin’ her other hand, if she didn’t send us all out, whisperin’ between them little cracklin’cries  that school, it was dismissed fer the day.

If that don’t beat all…..!






Nearly raised on a church pew, the hard kind, all scarred and damaged and oiled and polished nearly daily with Aunt Jane’s lemon Pledge, I knew just which ones clean enough to stretch out upon, and which ones to avoid, since Ricky Amos was wont to wet his pants every Sunday morning.  Then again, come Sunday night.

I was raised respectful and quiet.  I’d memorized the page numbers of most of the old hymns, and had some distaste for the newer choruses having no proper verses.  And don’t get me started on skipping any of those verses during song service.  I think not!  I think NOT!

Wasn’t my call, but since my Mama was the pianist come Sundays, I made my petitions known, make no mistake.

Nearly raised on a pew did not, however, preclude my mind from wandering.  I’d ask silent forgiveness from the Lord Almighty, staring hard at the portrait of Jesus, all tanned and smiling mysteriously like the Mona Lisa whist I prayed.  Me and the Lord, we had an agreement.  I wouldn’t close my eyes (I learned early on when I did, folks thought I was looking for salvation.  Again.  And again.  Not that I didn’t need a re-up every now and then, but all those loving pats on the cheek wore on me some.), and the Lord would listen even so.  

And once forgiveness was requested, I’d snuggle in just a little closer to my lavender splashed grandmama Lily and she’d get to work.  An silent agreement,  just like me and Jesus, Grandmama Lily would pull an well-faded, flower-dappled,  soft as a baby kitten handkerchief from her pocketbook.  Once upon a time, she’d let me rifle around in there to keep me occupied during the most dry of sermons.  Until I sent her Chapstick rolling down the center aisle.  

And that was that.

But this?  Our new solution satisfied all my needs for occupation and imagination.  With a little twist here and a little tuck there, a quick roll and a poof, why, in my hand would be the most glorious hanky baby-in-a-basket!  The first time Grandmama displayed this skill, I gave Jesus a quick look, thanking him for the miracle he’d wrought.  And he kept on wroughting–week after week.  Even when the Hell Fire was being preached, Grandmama would twist and roll and wrap and poof and once again, a hanky baby in a blanket was laid gently in my little girl hands.

Last I saw Grandmama, not so very long ago, now, she lay in a pristine hospital bed, sweet and little, bright white curls like clouds ’round her gentle face.  We’d all, all the cousins and kids and other kin once and twice removed, come to say our goodbyes.  And durned if my Grandmama, seeing my distress, durned if she didn’t twist and roll and puff and poof and lay a sweet little hanky baby in a blanket in my big girl hands.

My treasure.  My Grandmama.